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Natalie Moyo joined the Anzisha team in early 2021. As a Portfolio Manager, she works closely with the young entrepreneurs in the fellowship. In this article, she reflects on what she has learned while coaching Africa’s youngest entrepreneurs. 

Having recently joined the Anzisha Prize team, I have had to learn and unlearn a couple of things to effectively support our cohort of very young African entrepreneurs. 

Before Anzisha there was…

For the past 2 years, I have been working with entrepreneurs in Bulawayo Zimbabwe, helping them navigate challenges relating to their environment and building sustainability into their businesses. When I joined Anzisha I had to level up my game as the focus shifted to very young entrepreneurs located across the continent in various sectors. Having worked in the legal and investment banking industries, I gained a diverse range of skills and experience that I knew would be impactful when shared with young entrepreneurs. 

My career move into the entrepreneur support and business development space was the best decision I had ever made because I come alive when working with passionate entrepreneurs and helping them shape their ideas into profitable businesses. However, that is not to say it has been the easiest work I have had to do. I have had to re-adjust my expectations and learn as I go. 

“Like most people, I had an unrealistic expectation of entrepreneurship and how glamorous it was. The amount of work and drive that goes into establishing a successful business explains why 80–90% of small businesses fail within the first 3 years of inception in Africa.”

Prior to working with young entrepreneurs, I worked in the corporate field where there are rules, policies, and procedures. Everyone knew what they needed to do and somehow, all worked in unison along those guidelines. I took such structure for granted but soon realised that when building a business from the ground up without previous work experience, young people will not have standard operating procedures at the fore of their minds. Most of the initial work we have to do with entrepreneurs is helping them establish those frameworks such as team management processes or cash flow management systems, that make it easier to build an efficient enterprise. 

Keeping the flame alive

Like most people, I had an unrealistic expectation of entrepreneurship and how glamorous it was. The amount of work and drive that goes into establishing a successful business explains why 80–90% of small businesses fail within the first 3 years of inception in Africa. There is a need for us to effectively prepare entrepreneurs to put in the work, this means being brutally honest about prioritising goals, acquiring new skills or hiring talent to complete a job, and having a bird’s eye view of everything that goes in and out of the business. Drive and determination need to be constantly fanned in entrepreneurs like flames to keep them going, otherwise, they may lose sight of their vision. 

In the world we live in today, agility is a vital skill in both businesses and individuals. This means although small businesses should have foundational frameworks and policies in place, they need the flexibility to make sure that they can adjust when needed and are not resistant to change as and when it comes. Knowing how long to stick it out when introducing a noveau product or service, build traction in the market or when to pivot a business model when there are shifts in the market, has shown me the need for agility to stay ahead of competition. 

Just like our entrepreneurs, I am learning something new and aiming to better my expertise when working with bright young minds.  

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